In signed letters, health-care professionals in Alberta and Manitoba urge their respective provinces to impose tough new restrictions aimed at beating back COVID-19 as case numbers rise, warning health-care systems are becoming overstretched.
A letter, signed Sunday by more than 1,500 nurses in Manitoba, urges officials to take action quickly and calls for more resources and personal protective gear.
The letter from the nurses comes after a similar appeal from a group of doctors on Nov. 1, in which the physicians wrote that they were “deeply worried for our patients and the health of Manitobans in the weeks and months that lie ahead.”
Alberta physicians are also calling on their province to impose a two-week emergency lockdown, mirroring the calls by health-care professionals in Manitoba.
Manitoba, which reported 365 new cases and three more deaths on Monday, has been wrestling with how to handle an uptick in cases and hospitalizations. The test positivity rate for Manitoba also rose Monday to 9.5 per cent provincially, which is a record, and 9.3 per cent in Winnipeg.
“We implore you to not let the warnings of workers who are holding up our frail health-care system fall on deaf ears.”
In Winnipeg, Mayor Brian Bowman called on the province to do more to stop COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care homes, after eight residents at a single facility died over the weekend.
Bowman called the number of deaths at the Maples Long Term Care Home “sickening” at a news conference Monday.
Government officials should consider all options — including military help — that can provide the assistance they “clearly need,” he said.
Also on Monday, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said he met with Premier Brian Pallister to discuss the possibility of further restrictions. A record 192 people are in hospital, 28 of them in intensive care, with COVID-19.
As well, Manitobans with no COVID-19 symptoms can no longer receive a test as the province moves to testing symptomatic people only.
COVID-19 case numbers have been on the rise to the West, as well. In Saskatchewan, a single-day record was broken when the province announced 190 new cases on Monday. Another death was also reported, for a total of 29 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
On Monday, an Alberta group of more than 70 physicians sent a letter to Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, warning the health-care system will be overburdened if drastic action isn’t taken soon.
“We believe that the conversation should not be framed as a choice between ‘lockdown’ akin to the prolonged experience in April-June or no mandatory restrictions,” said the letter.
Alberta announced 644 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and seven more deaths. That report brings the total number of active cases up to 7,965, breaking previous records. There are 192 people being treated in Alberta hospitals for the illness, including 39 in ICU beds.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference that the rising hospitalizations and cases are extremely concerning.
When asked about further lockdown measures, or the possibility of a “snap” shutdown that would last mere weeks to curb cases, she said she wants to give people a chance to follow health rules voluntarily first.
The province announced 727 new cases on Sunday, but Alberta has had technical issues with its reporting system since late last week.
Hinshaw said Monday that there are still some issues with overall testing numbers, but that should be updated later in the week.
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In British Columbia, Premier John Horgan on Monday told residents that social interactions need to be limited; otherwise, the province could impose restrictions similar to what was introduced in the spring.
That will be an option for officials, if the numbers do not start to decline, he said.
The province announced 998 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths since Saturday on Monday. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said active cases have risen to a new high of 4,891.
Monday’s news conference came as people living in two health regions that cover the Metro Vancouver area are facing temporary restrictions to try and slow the spread of the virus.
“We need to take urgent and focused actions, here in particular in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health Regions, to avoid the serious consequences for all of us, not just in this region but around the province.”
The orders, which Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said focus on social gatherings, travel, indoor group physical activity and workplace safety, will be in effect for two weeks.
“I know this is hard. I know we don’t want to have to be doing this,” Henry said in her Saturday briefing. “We need to support each other right now to make this break.”
Significant news on Monday also includes Pfizer, one of several pharmaceutical companies working to develop a vaccine, announcing that an early look at the data on its coronavirus vaccine suggests the shots may be a robust 90 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19.
That information puts the company on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the news about the vaccine trial is an “encouraging” development — and could be the first step toward restoring Canada’s social and economic life.
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He said if all goes well, the vaccine could be available for Canadians in the first three months of 2021. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said at a news conference.
Trudeau also announced his government will connect all Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026 at the same conference. That plan comes as more are working online and at home due to the pandemic.
What’s happening across Canada
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As of 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday, provinces and territories in Canada had reported a cumulative total of 268,735 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 218,400 cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 10,564.
Rising case numbers weren’t limited to the West — both Ontario and Quebec reported record daily case number highs over the weekend.
Ontario on Monday reported 1,242 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 additional deaths, with 483 cases in Toronto, 279 in Peel Region, 107 in York Region, 74 in Ottawa and 57 in Hamilton.
Numbers have been soaring in several parts of the province even as the government implements a colour-coded assessment system that effectively relaxes public health restrictions in several hot spots. Peel is the only one of 34 public health units in the red “control” category of the new criteria. Officials in that region have also implemented their own restrictions in an effort to curb the spread, including limiting dining groups to members of the same household.
The new cases Monday came as Ontario processed about 28,400 tests, which is just over half the existing capacity, and far below the established goal of 68,000 tests daily.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said three new testing centres and a mobile testing unit will be established in Brampton, Ont., starting this week and that the province is also providing 70 more contact tracers to the region’s health unit and funding for 234 additional hospital beds
However, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said Monday that he agrees with Peel’s medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh in that stricter measures are required for the municipality and asked for further help from the provincial and federal governments.
In Toronto — where a record-breaking 504 new cases were reported Monday, by the city’s own tally — Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said the new numbers “do not point us toward fewer restrictions.”
Toronto is under the restrictions of modified Stage 2 until at least Nov. 14. Asked if indoor dining and gyms will reopen this weekend, both De Villa and Tory say they are continuing to discuss with the province and will have more answers on Tuesday.
A COVID-19 immunization task force is also being planned, as the municipality is preparing for widespread, local implementation when a vaccine is ready.
Quebec on Monday reported 1,169 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 deaths, including five reported to have occurred in the past 24 hours. A provincial dashboard listed the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 at 540, with 76 in intensive care.
Also on Monday, Health Minister Christian Dubé urged residents in Saguenay, a region north of Quebec City, to follow public health guidelines as cases are rising in the area, after being largely unaffected earlier on in the pandemic.
In Nunavut, government officials confirmed there was a second case of COVID-19 in Sanikiluaq, a fly-in community with about 900 residents.
Dr. Michael Patterson, the territory’s chief public health officer, said the second case is part of the same household as the first case reported. He said there’s no evidence of community spread right now but urged people to follow public health restrictions.
“Stay at home, do not go visiting and wear a mask in public spaces such as grocery stores. Together, we can prevent any further spread in the community,” Patterson said in a statement Sunday
There were no new cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. A new case was reported in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In Prince Edward Island, there were no new cases announced Monday, and two active cases remain in the province since they were announced Friday.
What’s happening around the world
The number of cases of COVID-19 reported around the world on Monday morning stood at more than 50 million, with more than 33 million of those listed as recovered, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The database maintained by the U.S.-based university put the death toll at more than 1.2 million.
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In the Americas, the United States has reported 10 million cases of COVID-19 as of Monday, and more than 237,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic started, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s data.
The 10 million mark was reached Monday afternoon, as new daily confirmed cases in the U.S. are up more than 60 per cent over the past two weeks, to an average of nearly 109,000 a day.
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Monday unveiled some details around how his team will respond to COVID-19, but he cautioned that the nation is “still facing a very dark winter” from COVID-19, despite positive news on vaccines.
He said wearing masks shouldn’t be considered political and urged everyone to wear one.
“The goal is to get back to normal as fast as possible, and masks are critical in doing that,” Biden said.
Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in several states, including hard-hit Texas. The situation has become especially acute in El Paso, with El Paso county’s top elected official shutting down non-essential activities and medical teams being sent in to help.
Health officials said that statewide more than 6,000 people were hospitalized Sunday with COVID-19.
As well, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. Carson is the first member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet who is known to have tested positive.
The 69-year-old Carson is among several top Trump administration officials who attended last week’s election night party at the White House.
The department’s deputy chief of staff, Coalter Baker, said Monday that Carson is “in good spirits” following the diagnosis and “feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics, which aid and markedly speed his recovery.”
In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency and ordered a statewide mask mandate in an attempt to stem a surge in coronavirus patient hospitalizations that is testing the state’s hospital capacity.
Herbert and the Utah Department of Health late Sunday issued executive and public health orders requiring residents to wear face coverings in public, at work and when they are within two metres of people who don’t live in their households.
Several of the state’s largest counties already required masks, but Herbert, a Republican, had resisted extending the rule to the entire state despite a two-month surge of cases. Herbert ordered a limit on “casual social gatherings” to household members only.
In Europe, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has tested positive for coronavirus, the presidential office said on Monday.
“The head of state is feeling well and will continue to perform his duties remotely in self-isolation,” the office said in a statement.
Portugal and Hungary on Monday became the latest countries in Europe to impose curfews against the resurgent tide of coronavirus infections and deaths lashing the continent and filing its emergency wards. But glimmers of hope emerged from France, Belgium and elsewhere that tough restrictions might be starting to work.
Portugal, which like other European countries has seen new cases and hospital admissions surge in recent weeks, imposed a state of emergency and ordered some seven million people — around 70 per cent of its population — to stay home on weeknights from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time for at least the next two weeks. They’ll be even more limited over the weekends, allowed out only in the morning until 1 p.m., unless to buy essentials at supermarkets.
“People need to comply. If they don’t, we are in a bad situation,” said Miriam Ferreira, a 44-year-old laundry worker in Lisbon.
Portugal’s government warned that the measures may be broadened and prolonged if they prove insufficient.
Hungary also imposed its strictest measures so far: an 8 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. All businesses must close by 7 p.m.
Other measures in Hungary mirrored those becoming familiar across Europe, including limits on eateries and sports events, family gatherings limited to 10 people and remote learning for high school and university students. The restrictions kick in Tuesday at midnight and will remain for at least 30 days.
“I know, we all know, that this will not be easy. The next weeks will be difficult. But the vaccine is within sight, we’ve got to hold out until then,” Orban said.
Last week, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto announced that a small amount of Russian coronavirus vaccine would arrive in Hungary in December for final tests, with larger deliveries in January.
The French government has gradually ratcheted up from localized curfews and bar closings to what is now a full-blown nationwide lockdown, albeit with schools and essential businesses open. Health Minister Olivier Veran said early indications are that the measures may be starting to slow the latest virus surge and that it would “have flared up faster and stronger” without them.
Still, the situation in French hospitals and nursing homes was grim, with emergency wards approaching saturation levels and some sick patients being evacuated from struggling hospitals to others that still had space. With more than 1.8 million infections since the start of the pandemic, France has Europe’s highest total of recorded cases and the fourth-highest worldwide.
Other European nations also reported the fledgling beginnings of a possible turnaround. In Germany, the health minister said increased infections seem to be levelling off but that it’s too early to talk of a trend.
In hard-hit Belgium, health authorities were confident that a partial lockdown has brought down hospital admissions for COVID-19. Belgian hospital admissions for the virus appear to have peaked at 879 on Nov. 3, and fell to about 400 on Sunday, virologist Yves Van Laethem said Monday. The drop follows a return to partial lockdown measures including the closure of non-essential businesses and extending a school vacation.
In the Netherlands, the number of new coronavirus cases registered fell sharply on Monday, continuing a decline that began in early November after entering a second near-lockdown on Oct. 13.
In England, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told citizens not to let their guard down in the wake of positive news on the Pfizer vaccine, as he stressed it’s very early days and “we cannot let our enthusiasm tonight run away with us.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, police in Sri Lanka will strictly enforce mask and social distancing requirements and punish violators starting Monday as other anti-virus measures are eased to reduce the economic pain.
Police spokesperson Ajith Rohana said police have arrested 120 people for failing to wear face masks and maintain social distance in public places during the last 10 days. Coronavirus rules introduced last month carried punishment of a fine of more than $50 US, six-months imprisonment or both.
Residents of India’s capital are enduring one of the worst spells of air pollution in years, data showed, raising the risks to New Delhi residents posed by the novel coronavirus, doctors said.
India has reported 45,903 new coronavirus cases, with its capital recording the highest single-day rise in infections since the pandemic began. The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 490 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities in the country to 126,611.
New Delhi’s increase of 7,745 cases comes during a recent surge the government has attributed to crowding in markets during the ongoing festive season, winter weather and high air pollution.
India has counted more than 8.5 million cases since the pandemic began, the second-highest total behind the U.S.
Malaysia’s opposition on Monday demanded Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration spend more funds under the 2021 budget to manage the coronavirus pandemic.
Authorities in Pakistan have implemented a mini-lockdown in over 4,000 regions across the country by sealing off hot spots in a bid to contain COVID-19 infections. On Monday, Pakistan reported 1,650 new cases and nine deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
Israel will also soon offer testing at its main international airport as authorities hope the decision will help revive the air travel industry.
Passengers at Ben Gurion International Airport will be able to pay around $13 US for a test and get results within 14 hours, with faster testing methods on offer in the coming weeks. Israel is gradually emerging from its second nationwide lockdown that began in mid-September and is slowly being relaxed.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the government will do all it can to help the economy recover, signaling his readiness to compile another stimulus package.
In Iran, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, President Hassan Rouhani announced further measures over the weekend aimed at fighting the pandemic. Starting on Tuesday, for one month, all non-essential businesses will have to close at 6 p.m. local time. According to the Johns Hopkins database, Iran has seen nearly 693,000 cases and reported more than 38,700 deaths.
South Africa remains the hardest-hit country in Africa, with more than 737,000 reported cases and nearly 20,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.